The secret science of how drugs like Ozempic and Jardiance got their weird names

If you find yourself absentmindedly humming “O-O-O-Ozempic,” you have David Payton to blame.

The singer-songwriter, a former member of the Bay City Rollers, co-wrote the 1975 hit “Magic” for his Pilot band and revised and sang it for a television commercial for the popular weight-loss drug. Continuously broadcast on Internet TV.

“I’ve heard doctors say that patients don’t remember drug names but sing songs,” a former product manager at pharmaceutical companies such as Merck and Pfizer told The Washington Post. “Of course, doctors verify the drug names. But they know what patients are referring to.” ’s what. They’ve seen the commercials too.”

In fact, “one thing drug advertising does is tell people the brand name,” Adrienne Faerber, a researcher in drug advertising, marketing and policy, told The Washington Post. “Jingles are perfect for this.

“How do you learn your ABCs? From a song. How do you learn the name of a drug? From a song. These songs are very upbeat, even though they talk about diseases and scary side effects.”

(See also: Jardiance, “a little pill that tells a big story” and the maddening jingle.)

It can cost billions of dollars to develop a drug, so promoting it is crucial. It all starts with the name.

A spin-off of the 1975 hit “Magic,” the “oh-oh-oh-Ozempic” jingle is unforgettable. Youtube
Pilot’s David Paton is the composer of Ozempic’s songs. Getty Images

The process typically starts with a list of about 1,000 names, said Scott Piergrossi, creative president of the Brand Institute, a prolific drug nomenclature agency. “We tried to come up with a name that was typical of proven names,” he told The Washington Post. They have five to nine letters and two to four syllables. ”

But it even comes down to the exact letters.

“Assuming there was an oral drug instead of an injectable, we would explore something that sounded liquid or had an O,” Fernando Fernandez, managing director of BX: Brand Experience Design Group, told The Washington Post. “If We expect products to have additional benefits and we may put an X in the name.”

It’s no coincidence that the new weight-loss drug Zepbound begins with Z, a popular letter among drug namers. Associated Press
Mounjaro has the same formula as Zepbound, but the former is used to control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and the latter is used for weight loss, so they have different names. Reuters

Research shows that consumers prefer taking drugs with the letter Z, which may have played a role in the naming of Ozempic and Zepbound. A major pharmaceutical executive told The Washington Post that someone saying Z or X can make a name stand out and look unique.

According to the Canadian Medical Journal, the letters X, Y and Z all have high-tech and scientific meanings. [sic] How you feel about drugs like the sleeping pill Xanax.

Another reason the executive likes Xanax: It’s a palindrome. But, he added, people must learn to pronounce X as Z. Maybe it can’t start with a Z because the FDA thinks it makes too many promises about putting users to sleep.

With its “fun and memorable” name, Wegovy has become the heavyweight champion of weight-loss drugs. Reuters
Elon Musk credits Wegovy and fasting for losing 20 pounds. Getty Images

Sometimes the same drug has multiple names, depending on its use. For example, most of today’s popular weight-loss injections were originally intended as treatments for type 2 diabetes.

For example, Zepbound has the same formula as the diabetes drug Mounjaro, both made by Eli Lilly and Company.

While the company that came up with the Zepbound name is so tight-lipped that its representatives won’t even acknowledge that it’s been done, the Big Pharma executive told The Washington Post: “To me, Zepbound sounds like Generic.” Inspiration for the name Tirzepatide.”

BX: Fernando Fernandez, managing director of the Brand Experience Design Group, likes the “liquid” name for oral prescription drugs. Courtesy of Fernando Fernandez

Likewise, Ozempic is approved to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, while Wegovy’s main ingredient, semaglutide, which is shared with parent Novo Nordisk, is aimed at weight loss.

People are hesitant to take medications,” a medical advertising veteran told The Washington Post. “If they didn’t have diabetes, they’d wonder why they were taking a diabetes drug to lose weight. This weight loss drug has to have a different name, even though it’s very close to the same thing. The name Wegovy is fun, memorable, and obviously very efficient.”

Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler and Sharon Osbourne have all admitted to using the diabetic version to lose weight, while Elon Musk is 20 Pounds of weight lost thanks to Wegovy and fasting.

Claire Danes stars in a commercial for the eyelash growth drug Lattise, named after the artist Henri Matisse.

The advertising veteran said members of the naming team often “put the brand personality together.” They might ask, if drugs were a car, would it be a Ferrari or a Mazda?Then they find a name among these parameters [and others].

Take Latisse, a drug for eyelash growth popularized by Claire Danes, which had to sound sexier than Lumigan after eyelash growth was discovered to be a side effect of Lumigan. Lumigan is where it comes from.

Because Latisse is almost in the realm of cosmetics, we looked to art and music while conveying the confidence and excitement that comes with longer lashes,” Piergrossi explain. The artistic theme appears because you “sculpted” the eyelashes.

The magic formula for a drug name is five to nine letters and two to four syllables, said Scott Piergrossi, president of creative at the Brand Institute. Courtesy of Scott Pilgrosi

Among the many art-oriented names considered, one came out on top: French painter and sculptor [Henri] Matisse. He’s in the name. In addition, La contains the initial letters of lash, which sounds very feminine.

This strategy must have worked. Between 2009 and 2018, Latisse generated annual sales of more than $70 million.

Research shows that if you ask for a specific drug, sometimes doctors want to get you out of the office and just prescribe the drug you asked for,” the advertising veteran said. “At the end of the day, they’re going to give you what you want unless they have a good reason not to.

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